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Ask the Expert: Dixon Landscape Materials

Great landscaping starts here … your complete hardscape headquarters!

Landscape is divided up into hardscape and softscape. These areas are defined in terms of drainage. Hardscape is patios, sidewalks, buildings, thick fences, swimming pools, small buildings — places with no exposed earth for drainage. Softscape is those areas like lawn and garden where there is exposed ground to afford drainage. Hardscape is necessary to provide things like vertical walls that do not erode and paths that do not wear down.

• Shaping the Ground — Start your hardscaping with grading and contouring. Correct slopes and build up areas that need to be built up. Then install the walls to hold everything in place. Keep in mind that drainage should be away from the house and that any trees that will be planted must be a distance from fences and walls sufficient to keep the tree roots from damaging the structures. Walls and fences should also allow enough room from existing and proposed buildings to allow lawnmower access.

• Call Before You Dig — In every state there is a program called “Call Before You Dig” to let you check before you dig to see if there are any telephone lines, water lines, sewage lines, etc. You can access this free program by calling 811. If you do cut one of these lines without calling, you will definitely incur the wrath of your neighbors and probably incur a fine from the civil authorities. If you are digging to install a fence or wall, plan ahead and bury a PVC “sleeve” in or under your construction so future wires may be run.

• Evolving Paths — Some paths are obvious, such as the path from the property entrance to the front door. Some paths are not so obvious. It is often a good idea to leave off building a sidewalk and let people walk over the bare ground for a week or two. The trails will show you where the sidewalks should go.

• Incorporate Hardscape Into Your Landscape Design — Don’t restrict your do-it-yourself landscaping to plants. Include hardscape features too. Like evergreens, they provide structure in winter, and much more than that. Walls and fences make an essential design statement, as they frame your property. Fencing makes a much more finished property. Decks and arbors are other important hardscape features. Patios and decks provide transitions from indoors to outdoors.

• Install Water Features: It’s Easier than You Think — Good landscape designs are anchored by focal points. One of the hottest trends is to use water features as focal points. This is one trend with “sound” reasoning behind it: water features are not only visually appealing, but emit soothing sounds. Using pre-formed rigid plastic liners, durable pumps, flexible tubing and cheap fountains, they’re also a lot easier to install than you think.

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